November 1, 2017: We are declaring the member section of this website "ready for Prime Time," although much information that we do have is not yet displayed on our pages. For that reason, we call attention to our "Ask FamilyLight a Question" feature. We may revise this from time to time, but for now we ask that paid members make use of this feature quite liberally. Non-Members are also invited to participate, although Members will get priority when and if time constraints emerge. If you are seeking information on this site and do not find it, please ask us. Please go to "Ask FamilyLight a Question" feature to see details.
See What's New for the latest additions to Virtual Consultant.
This is where we are developing our Online Virtual Consultant Service. Here is where you learn what we currently offer for people who only want to use an online service as they might have wanted to use a private consultant. We have three purposes here in order of importance: (1) To help families to know the steps that they need to take in order to do a consultant quality job without involving a consultant -- and provide the information they need in order, actually to go through those steps; (2) To help SOME families to recognize that the job is too big for them to do well, and then engage a consultant; and (3) To give families some reasonable expectations of a consultant so that they can hold a private consultant accountable for doing the job without cutting corners.
Most pages that are accessible only to paid members are paired with an "Introduction" page that is open to the public. If you are not a paid member but are potentially interested in accessing the information on a page, you can go to the Introduction page to get a glimpse of what is available on the paired members' page. This will help you to decide if it is worth becoming a member to access that information. Generally links on a page that is publicly accessible go to Introduction pages and other pages that are publicly accessible unless the word "members" (linked to page use to become a member) appears next to that link.
When this is fully developed we will have about a dozen services making this website your virtual consultant. Some parts of this are well enough developed now to be useful:
- Planning Method -- A step by step process for families to follow in planning for a young person with special needs, including but not limited to selection of a school or treatment program. A competent consultant will pay serious attention to all elements of this planning process although they might describe what they are doing in different words. Signed in members use this link to the Planning Method.
- School/ Program/ Other Entity Index: We have developed a comprehensive index of schools, programs and related services for USA special needs families seeking services in the private sector. "Related Services" include parent organizations, transport companies, and financing organizations, among other possibilities. Entries are linked to our references throughout this website plus websites of the entity at issue. Development of this feature is near completion. For detail, follow the link at the start of this paragraph. This feature is and will remain publicly accessible.
- Guidelines for Schools and Programs. This tells you what is important to us as we assess schools and programs. This information is currently in the Old Format only but will at some future time be updated and relocated into the New Format. Like all Old Format pages this is publicly accessible. We will make a determination about member vs. non-member access when we revise and relocate. No decision has been made on whether migrated guidelines will be restricted to members.
- School/ Program reviews: Incisive commentary on programs and other organizations of interest with your feedback welcomed. All active reviews (new format and old format) are listed with links on our reviews and discussion page. Our reviews are sometimes objective, sometimes highly subjective, but never biased by advertising or other undisclosed conflicts of interest. Many of our old reviews are in the Public Area, in the old format. The newer ones have a brief introduction in the public area (new format), but only members will have access to the full review and the comments from others on the full review. Non members may publish and read comments regarding the publicly accessible short introductions in the new format. Program Reviews, Old Format . Program Reviews New Format (The latter includes publicly accessible review introductions in the new format)
- Major Provider Groups: -- Information about companies that own schools and programs, associations, marketing groups and multi-program foundations.
- School and Program Search function: Tell the computer a characteristic of the person in need. The computer responds with names of schools and programs that fit that description, and enough additional information to get you started learning more about those schools and programs. This tool will allow members to sort out schools and programs quickly and efficiently. This tool is accessible only to members, (although descriptions and instructions about the service are visible to public. Schools and programs included are those of greater than local interest (usually residential) routinely serving families paying for services themselves. We do not include schools and programs that depend exclusively on public funding sources, except in a few cases programs supported exclusively or nearly so by public school district funding pursuant to IDEA. We now have over 100 traits/ characteristics of schools and programs entered into our system as categories and tags (members can see most of them if you look a the "category" menu on the left side of this page). We are initially putting priority on schools and programs for the youngest children and will then move to focus on tweeners, then teens and finally adults.
- Currently (June 2016) we have nearly 100 school/program entries in all age groups, and this will grow rapidly. We have achieved substantially comprehensive inclusion of schools and programs serving USA special needs pre-teens whose parents are choosing the venue (as opposed to public agencies).
- Then we move to complete our data entry on programs serving all those under age 18 before moving to adults. We believe that it is now a useful tool, but one that will soon be much more valuable.
- Grades and Ratings: We will eventually provide a system of Grades A+ through F for schools and programs. This is accessible only to members.
- Schools and Programs Most in Play. (If you are a signed in member, click here instead) This section identifies programs (by category) that are getting the most attention from families who are prepared to pay for the best of services, supplemented with a few schools and programs we think ought to be in that category. Some of those we include are places that are popular but to which we would not refer.
- Issues of Concern: Information and opinion on many topics that matter to people with special needs and their families. This where we express our opinions and invite others to do so. Again, the old ones are in the public area; newer ones are member access. Some older entries might be found at the following links, but all are cataloged and linked at Issues of Concern. Topics of Interest, Old Format. Topics of Interest, New Format.
- Discussion: Share thoughts and opinions with other members. Currently this is limited to Comment section on pages in new members' format (including pages like this that are open to the public -- See Rules).
- Obtain Limited services from FamilyLight -- All users may ask questions and get an answer. See "Ask a FamilyLight a Question." Our procedures have changed (November 1, 2017). Please do as requested in this link.
- We will also do a thorough records review and give you and give suggestions on using that information in your planning process. This is a fee based service. Click here for Records Review information.
- Recommended Reading: We want every client to read Lynne Forrest's "Three Faces of Victim" Two books likely to be helpful for families and for therapeutic endeavors are The Anatomy of Peace and Leadership and Self Deception. These are fictional works, where the stories told are about people learning and initially applying Arbinger principles. Both are part of the life story of the fictional story of Lou Herbert, a fictional business man with a very challenging teen-aged daughter. In The Anatomy of Peace, Lou and his wife and daughter learn Arbinger principles in a therapeutic context. In Leadership and Self Deception, Lou is applying the Arbinger principles to his business and in the process learns more about applying these principles in family situations. (This section is being developed. Many additional recommendations will be coming, but the article is key to almost everyone in need of these services; the books apply to most.)
Two services that might be offered by a private consultant are not available using virtual consultant and will not become available, but not all consultants provide either of these services. One is meeting your son or daughter and getting to know the person apart from the written records. The other is monitoring progress and helping to hold a school or program accountable. For either of these to be done, you need a private consultant who provides those services. We do. Some other consultants do, but not all do. We find that in many cases our opinion of what is the best way forward changes when we meet the young person.
As we further develop these features, we will be increasing our charges to members taking advantage of all features. We are not clear on whether we will be increasing charges to everyone or creating a split rate system between people using this website in place of a consultant compared to people using this site for a more limited purpose. People who will work individually and intensively with a family on a planning and searching process will always be needed and a computer program will never fully replace that. We believe we offer the highest quality service available when that is needed for people with special needs. Read about our individual and personal service.
Last updated November 1, 2017